My partner doesn’t get art toys.
Ironic, given he’s a long-time gamer and war-gamer and has painted more miniatures that I’ve ever owned. He had a garage full of tiny artworks – each one a character in a world far wider than our combined imaginations.
I’ve tried to entice him with the occasional piece I’ve brought home – at least the Bondage Labbit got a laugh – but to no avail. Gaming miniatures are all one-offs, he says; they’re not ‘limited editions’ and you don’t have to open twenty identical boxes to locate the one soldier you’re missing. Each one is sculpted, customised and painted with love and detail; ink-washed by your own hand.
Cue Matt ‘Lunartik’ JOnes, setting up his Custom Tea Tour in the front window of Forbidden Planet London.
It’s quite a thing to behold. The propage and set-up, like the character of Lunartik himself, is so wonderfully, quintessentially English – lace tablecloths, chests of drawers – this is a whole new take on a phenomenon that’s held to Japanese origins and American street-culture.
It should be quaint – but it manages to hold an ephemeral sense of cool that just pure Ice-T.
Framed by live Posca Pan art on the window itself, Matt begins the unboxing. I stand outside with my trusty little Lumix; it’s like watching the unpacking of a treasure chest. The staff at FP London are taking every chance to pop out and wonder at the creatures, creations and customs that are being revealed… and passers-by are stopping to stare in amazement. ‘I don’t know what they are,’ one lady comments to her husband, ‘but aren’t they beautiful’.
Matt has done a spectacular job; he’s really put some thought into the design and layout of the display and he’s rounded up some of the best names in the business. There are interpretations by art toy culture giants Jon Burgerman and Pete Fowler, plus a delicious selection of conversions by numerous other UK artists. The wonderful thing about the basic 3D vinyl canvas is that that there’s so much you can do with him – and he’s still recognisable, sat always in his Cup of Tea.
Once home, I’m dutifully loading the pictures into my Flickr account and showing off my very own ‘The Earl’ limited edition vinyl figure – and (insert squeeee here) I find the other half has finally found something he can break out the biscuits for.
My son falls in love with Lunartik instantly – he wants to actually make Tea for him to stand in. Derailed from this fatali-tea at the last minute, he sits entranced as we all look through the pics.
They’re creative. They’re beautiful. They’re original. They’re one-off. Each one is a characterful customisation of the original figure – yet remains true to the 3D vinyl canvas. He’s still recognisable. To a long-time wargamer, it’s a positive army of Cups of Tea (stat that one!), each one with name and face and individualism; each one made with love and artistic skill. He loves Lunartik’s wide eyes, his blending of cute and controversial in true art toy fashion. And he loves his true English taste.
And this, of course, then extends to the shelf-full of little vinyl figures that I have above my desk. They’re the prints, I tell him. What you’re seeing are the originals – but each and every 3D print still carries that feeling.
And that’s why I collect art toys.
It seems, after all, they’re just his cup of Rosie Lee.